42 MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE
may at times be a mere synonym for sloth and laziness, and
fecundity may be a racial virtue but an individual vice.
But all these qualities may be summed up in the word mellow-
ness. They are passive qualities, suggestive of calm and passive
strength rather than as youthful vigour and romance. They
suggest the qualities of a civilization built for strength and
endurance rather than for progress and conquest. For it is
a civilization which enables man to find peace under any
circumstance, and when a man is at peace with himself, he
cannot understand the youthful enthusiasm for progress and
reform. It is the old culture of an old people who know life
for what it is worth and do not strive for the unattainable.
The supremacy of the Chinese mind flays its own hopes and
desires, and by making the supreme realization that happiness
is an unattainable bluebird and giving up the quest for it—
"taking a step backwards," as the Chinese expression goes—it
finds happiness nestling in its own hand, almost strangled to
death during the hot pursuit of an imagined shadow. As a Ming
scholar puts it, "by losing that pawn, one wins the whole game."
This so-called mellowness is the result of a certain type of
environment. In fact, all national qualities have an organic
unity, which finds its explanation in the kind of social and
political soil that nourishes them. For mellowness somehow
grows naturally out of the Chinese environment as a peculiar
variety of pear grows out of its natural soil. There are American-
born Chinese, brought up in a different environment, who
are totally devoid of the characteristics of the common Chinese,
and who can break up a faculty meeting by the sheer force of
their uncouth nasal twang and their direct forceful speech,
a speech which knows no fine modulations. They lack that
supreme, unique mellowness peculiar to the sons of Cathay.
On the other hand, Chinese college youths are considerably
more mature than American students of the same age, for
even young Chinese freshmen in American universities cannot
get interested in football and motor-cars. They have already
other and more mature interests.1 Most probably they are
lit is extremely dangerous, therefore, to send fresh American college
graduates out to China as missionaries and put them over Chinese teachers or
preachers twice as mature as themselves. Many of them have not even tasted
the agony of first love.